Well, here we are at the American Idol finals, with low key Kris Allen vs. the bombastic Adam Lambert. I’m happy with the final twosome, really, though I would have personally preferred an Allison / Adam matchup. But since that wasn’t possible, given her ousting in the Final 4, I’m pleased as can be that smug, irritating hack Gokey got booted last week, leaving us with this duo. For most of the season, I’ve enjoyed Adam’s performances more than Kris’s (though I did really dig his “Falling Slowly” and thought his rendition of “Heartless,” from an original artist I can’t stand, was the high point last week), so I guess I’m kind of pulling for him. But I just want an entertaining hour (and yes, Idol Producers, as I’m know you’ve forgotten time and time again, an hour consists of 60 minutes. Not 67, or 64, or 70, you fucking buffoons), free of idiotic judges commentary, and with some variety in the song choices.
So, let’s get on with it, shall we?
Judges introductions. A noticeable lack of applause for Kara. (I know, she’s inane and inconsistent in her commentary. But I keep thinking she’s kinda cute, and is she really any more devoid of thought and logic than Randy or Paula?). Simon has eschewed the formal Hanes for this evening, too. Rules: one performer’s choice of their favorite from this year, one choice from producer Simon Fuller, and a performance of the “winner’s treacly ballad coronation,” this year written by Kara. Great. 33% of the evening just merited a fast forward and/or heavy drinking. And Ryan warns us that tomorrow night is “so packed with great stuff” that the show will RUN OVER THE SCHEDULED TIME AGAIN. You’ve got to be fucking kidding me, right? It’s a TWO HOUR SHOW. For what is in essence, a 60 second reveal, and a 3 minute confetti drenched ballad chock full 'o rainbows and moonbeams. What could possibly take up MORE THAN TWO FUCKING HOURS?! At least they are warning audiences in advance of their own towering ineptitude. Sigh.
Kris won the toss, and is electing to defer.
Adam opens with his performance of Tears for Fears (Gary Jules version) “Mad World.” I realize why the show keeps running over time. They’ve gone to a pawn shop, and exchanged all their clocks and watches for a smoke machine and 29 blue light bulbs. Adam does a lovely performance of the song, and though it doesn’t induce chills the way it did when we first heard it and it took us by surprise (or took some of by surprise, since this was one of the shows where his entire performance was past the show’s allotted running time), it really is quite understated vocally, compared to some of his previous vocal gymnastics, and is sung beautifully. The first three judgebots love it, and for some reason, Simon feels compelled (after several interruptions by the howler monkeys throwing poo) to comment on the “theatricality” of the performance. Dude, if you’re just now noticing this about Adam, have a cup of coffee and wake the fuck up. 9
Kris comes up in the bottom of the first at the piano, with “Ain’t No Sunshine.” Good lord, I love this song. The bluesy, plaintive nature of this tune is right in his wheelhouse, and he does a fantastic job with it, giving it a diversity of phrasing that, to use the typical Idol parlance, makes it his own. Really heartfelt, and a very good counter to Adam’s opening number. 9
Round One: Dead Heat. (Simon gives it to Kris).
Fuller picks “Change is Gonna Come,” Sam Cooke’s influential tune from the 60s, for Adam. Naturally, he performs it note perfectly, and of course, with lots of bombast. Depending on your appreciation for Adam’s upper register whaling, you probably either loved this or hated it. Though I wish there had been a wee bit more restraint building to the crescendo, it really was quite spectacular vocally. 9.5
For Kris, Fuller picks another classic R&B tune, Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On.” A great choice for him. Say what you want about his abysmal time management skills, the song choices have been very solid here, and suited to the artists. Kris does the song with guitar and some bongo accompaniment, and this is exactly what I think of when I think of most of Kris’s performances: vocally competent, interestingly phrased, and exactly what I think I should be hearing when I’m sitting on a deck on a sunny day, after a bit of the hippie lettuce, downing margaritas. I appreciate the calming melody and understatement of that Jason Mraz/Jack Johnson vibe, I just don’t always “seek it out” on the iPod when I “need” something to hear. Your Mileage May Vary. Some folks I know just love that stuff. Jason Castro tried to capitalize on that last year, but he was way less vocally and technically talented than is Kris (not to mention the fact that Jason might have been riding a short bus to school, or have fried his brain with too many white Russians and adventures with the Devil’s parsley). So, yeah, I liked that, it was aiight dawg, and it was smooth and well done. 8
Round Two: Adam
Running Score: Adam 18.5; Kris 17
And now we come to the portion of the program where the contestants perform some saccharine ballad inevitably about hopes and dreams and struggles and truth and frolicking on a beach of dreams and cloudy aspirations and climbing a mountain of pluck while fucking a unicorn in the ass and making a rainbow out of the spunk they pull out of their very own soul. Gah. Has any one of these formless regurgitations of 10th grade poetry EVER been worth a damn? If it HAS to be a stirring intellectual treatise on grasping the golden goddamned ring off the carousel of hope-y dreaminess, couldn’t it at least be an upbeat nugget of pop cotton candy? Has Kara been listening to the incessant promotion for Glee (which I’m actually looking forward to watching) and their use of “Don’t Stop Believin’?” Couldn’t we have something like that?
Adam gives us his take on “No Boundaries.” Will this be a song about someone who constantly invades your personal space? The difficulty in establishing a Palestinian state? College football recruiting? Your stepmom that uncomfortably got undressed in front of you when you were 14? The neighbor whose dog shits in your yard? Well, it wasn’t quite as soft and languorous as I’d anticipated, but it was every bit as expectedly obvious and insipid. How much do you penalize someone for “song choice,” when you have no choice, and the crafter of the tune is sitting right fucking there? Performance wise, it wasn’t one of Adam’s better shows, and on this one, I can see where the “upper register” complainers make their case. Grading on a curve (because they both have do roll with this crap), I’ll give it a 6. (And Cathy Dennis, 80s major hottie and pop hit crafter, co-wrote that with Kara? Wow.
Here we have Kris batting clean up on the same tune. Of course, his take has a more strummy, acoustic bent to it, and I actually enjoyed his version more, though he was far less technically proficient at hitting the notes the song required. Liked more, appreciated less? How about a copout with the same 6.
Round Three: Tie
Running Score: Adam 24.5; Kris 23
So, based on this, I would say that Adam won the night. The good thing is, I would be happy with either guy winning. They are both humble and appreciative and seem to have a genuine camaraderie and respect for each other.
And guess what? FOX has their most important pilot presentation right after this show, and they STILL FUCKING MANAGED TO RUN OVER TIME. (Of course, normally, I would give them the benefit of the doubt for a shrewd marketing move to suck people into watching Glee, but they have been so grossly confuzzled by the ability to understand where the big hand and the little hand are on the face of a fucking clock, that I won’t).
Tomorrow: Lots of fast forwarding with the TiVo and somebody wins! Wheee!